Sanctions on Russia: Netflix, American Express and TikTok suspend operations after Ukraine invasion

MOSCOW — Netflix and TikTok suspended most of their services in Russia on Sunday as the government cracks down on what people and media can say about Russia’s war in Ukraine.

American Express also announced that it would cease operations in Russia and in Russia-ally Belarus.

The decision comes afterwards Visa and Mastercard decided to do the same.
TikTok said Russian users can’t post new videos or see videos shared from other parts of the world.

TikTok spokeswoman Hilary McQuaide said the TikTok app in Russia now appears in “view-only” mode and doesn’t let people post or see new videos or live streams. They can still see older videos, but not if they’re from outside the country, she said.

The company blamed Moscow’s new “fake news” law, which among other things makes it illegal to call the fighting an invasion.

“Faced with Russia’s new ‘fake news’ law, we have no choice but to suspend live streaming and new content for our video service while we assess the security implications of this law,” TikTok said in a statement on Twitter. “Our in-app messaging service will not be affected.”

Netflix didn’t give a reason for shutting down services on Sunday, other than saying it reflected “local circumstances.” The company had previously said it would refuse to broadcast Russian state television channels.

Facebook and Twitter have already been blocked in Russia, as has access to the websites of a number of major international media outlets.
TikTok is part of the Chinese tech company ByteDance.

“Employee safety is our top priority,” she said, adding that the video-sharing service — part of China-based tech company ByteDance — didn’t want to put its Russian employees or users at risk of severe criminal penalties. Some protesters who have taken to the streets in Moscow, St. Petersburg and other Russian cities to denounce the invasion of Ukraine have used social media platforms to spread their cause.

South Korea’s Samsung Electronics, a leading supplier of smartphones and computer chips, said it would halt product shipments to the country, joining other big tech companies including Apple, Microsoft, Intel and Dell.

And two of the so-called Big Four accounting firms said Sunday they would cut ties with the country. KPMG and PricewaterhouseCoopers would both end ties with their Russia-based member firms, each employing thousands of people.

The shutdown of online entertainment – and information – is likely to further isolate the country and its people after a growing number of multinational companies cut off Russia from vital financial services, technology and a variety of consumer goods in response to Western economic sanctions, amid global outrage over the invasion Ukraine.

Ukraine’s Digital Transformation Minister Mykhailo Fedorov on Sunday urged US tech companies to do more to retaliate against Russia. He tweeted open letters urging Apple and Google to shut down their app stores in Russia and Amazon and Microsoft to suspend their cloud computing services.

Providers of internet-based services and apps have been largely reluctant to take measures that could deny Russian citizens social media services and other sources of information.

That all changed on Friday, when Russian President Vladimir Putin stepped up a crackdown on media and individuals not taking the Kremlin line on the war, blocking Facebook and Twitter and signing a law prohibiting the deliberate dissemination of it criminalizes what Moscow sees fit. fake” reports.

The new “fake news” law, which was quickly approved by both houses of the Kremlin-controlled parliament and signed by Putin, faces prison terms of up to 15 years for those who spread information that contradict the Russian government’s portrayal of the country violate war.

Several news outlets have also announced that they are pausing their work in Russia to assess the situation. Russian authorities have repeatedly and erroneously labeled reports of Russian military setbacks or civilian deaths in Ukraine as “fake” news. State media are describing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “special military operation” rather than war or invasion.

The law provides for penalties of up to three years or fines for spreading false news about the military, but the maximum sentence rises to 15 years for cases believed to have resulted in “severe consequences”.

Russia has become increasingly isolated in the days since the invasion began, closing itself off to outside sources of information as sanctions dig deep into its economy.

The ruble has fallen in value, and dozens of multinational companies have suspended or drastically scaled back operations in the country.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. Sanctions on Russia: Netflix, American Express and TikTok suspend operations after Ukraine invasion

Dais Johnston

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